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What does real love look like?

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whiteflower99 posted 11/14/2013 17:51 PM

I need your help, please.
My IC (with whom I have a love/hate relationship so I guess it's good)
has asked me to define to myself what real love looks like. My problem is my marriage was so fraught with lies and deceit, I have no clue. Because no matter what I can see a man saying or doing now, I feel like I will always wonder if what I see is "real".
My STBX would come home, kiss me, hug me, tell me he loved me, present as an honest caring loving man... and he betrayed me throughout the past 18 years.
So what the hell does real love look like????
Can some of you let me know how you KNOW you're loved? Maybe I can build on that.
TIA

painpaingoaway posted 11/14/2013 18:02 PM

I did not write this, I found it somewhere online, but I don't remember where, so I can not credit the author. But, anyway, I absolutely love this:

The ultimate definition of love, I believe, is one person ascribing significance & totally enhancing the existence of another human being through their affection for them.

When you love someone, their wishes become your wishes, their delights become your delights, their pleasures become your pleasures, and their pain becomes your pain.

Anything else is not love, but selfishness.

Love gives us the ability to put ourselves second to someone else, to make ourselves number two & even take pleasure in doing so, thus defying our essential human nature & survival-instinct to be selfish & to put ourselves first. ...

whiteflower99 posted 11/14/2013 18:44 PM

Yes I see that... but how do you know the other person is doing that?

JanaGreen posted 11/14/2013 19:04 PM

Love is a verb.

If I slapped my daughter in the face and then told you I loved her, would you believe my words or my actions?

whiteflower99 posted 11/14/2013 19:37 PM

I think my problem stems from the fact that his ACTIONS during the As indicated love for me. If I hadn't checked his phone I would have never suspected anything. And had this latest OW not confessed, I may not have known at all.
So how do I "know" by persons actions that they are being genuine and authentic? Kind of like when your WS shows you his cell phone to prove he isn't contacting OW but he has another secret phone you know nothing about.
How do you KNOW? What does it feel like? What does it look like?

JanaGreen posted 11/14/2013 20:33 PM

That's tricky because my H turns into a troll when he is lying. It FEELS inauthentic when he is lying. It sounds like your H is, unfortunately, a good liar.

FightingBack posted 11/14/2013 21:22 PM

Whiteflower, I know what you mean. My H said very loving things to me during his A. And most of the time he was kind, caring and a "Good" Husband. He told me that he loved me every day, 5 or 6 times a day. he would tell me that he loved me before going to a motel with his AP.

And today he will maintain that he DID love me. That means nothing to me.

today he says the same thing. Do I believe him? I also don't know how to recognize love.

Merlin posted 11/14/2013 22:27 PM

I once thought that I knew.

But I was wrong.

thebighurt posted 11/15/2013 02:04 AM

I'll follow this thread, hoping someone can tell us because I really have no idea from experience. I can only tell you what it ISN'T, and that is everything I lived for over 40 years.

KatieG posted 11/15/2013 02:13 AM

I agree with love being something you give and you open yourself up to that person. If you feel love for your children then you know what it feels like, sometimes it can be one sided, but you have the love and you give it. You want the best for them, you care for them and you're there for them.

I also think you can feel when the love comes back. You can feel if you are loved or not. With children its unconditional but with partners its not. We want it to be reciprocated and equal.

If we then find out that the love we are receiving is not like the love we are giving we question that and all sorts of other issues come up. Self protection and closing down, so then we love less.

I think then we would have 3 types of love, the love we give, the love we want to receive and the love we have received.

Ostrich80 posted 11/15/2013 04:18 AM

I once thought that I knew.

But I was wrong.

This ^^^^[[


I was those things described as love but it actually caused me to take his bullshit even longer. Now I just don't know. When I see my parents, I know that's real love but I just don't think I will ever feel safe to feel that kind of love again. I hate that side effect of infidelity..

[This message edited by Ostrich80 at 4:21 AM, November 15th (Friday)]

bigskyblues posted 11/15/2013 05:24 AM

I was married for 22 1/2 years and loved my wife very much (she was my first love). I always thought I was in a marriage where we would grow old together and take care of each other. I suspect most of us here felt the same way about our marriages.

I thought we were good (our friends and family thought we were the couple that would make it last)BUT there came a point where the "gut" was telling me something was wrong. I denied the feeling for some time then finally checked her computer and phone and found out the ex was a Craigslist and Adult Friend Finder addict.

I was 29 when we married, I am a much wiser 52 now.I know my "gut" was right and I would never deny those instincts again so I think this is the first part of knowing if your love is true (or being true to you).

A few months after my divorce (it was too soon but has worked out very well) I met a lady, we just had our first date 1 year anniversary. We live together and I love her very much and I am confident she loves me.

The longer I am with my SO the more I realize what love really is. My ex had a lot of FOO issues and I realize now how emotionally lopsided our marriage was.

With my SO I hear similar words of love but see different actions. Sometimes it is just little things but the little things tell me that she respects me. I work nights she works days. When I come home in the morning I fix her breakfast while she is getting ready for work, when I finally climb into bed the electric blanket has been turned on to warm me up after my night shift. I am not much of a drinker but I do like a particular micro brew beer, she makes sure there is always a few of them in the fridge. I have a few favorite foods she makes sure they're in the fridge or pantry. It is a bunch of little things but they all add up to respect and or caring about me. We also talk about everything. Our kids (she has two), work, bills, good things bad things, but when we talk we are both LISTENING to each other.

The one big thing that tells me she loves me, respects me, and trusts me is her 2 1/2 year old grandson. I love kids and have always had a nack for children ( 2 step kids and two kids of my own). She is a wonderful grandma and loves her grandson more than anything in the world. Early in our relationship I could sense a little jealousy when he would spend time with me. Now all I sense is happiness and trust because she knows I love her grandson like he was one of my own.

So real love may not sound a whole lot different because a lot of the same words will be spoken, but the actions will be totally different. With true love you will feel respect, and trust.

Also through experience your "gut" is going to warn you and you will recognize the cheating indicators much sooner.

You will get through this, you will be so much wiser, and better prepared to make relationship decisions. I realize now I was a very naive 29 year old, and I am much more prepared to stand up for myself.

Beautifulmind posted 11/15/2013 06:16 AM

This has been on my mind as well.... Thanks for posting Whiteflower!

Like many of you, I have questioned and struggled with what "love" is. My IC also gives me the "what does xxxxx look like" questions and I have difficulty answering them. For me, it's far too complex to define in a few words or sentences.

What I do know. Love is REAL. I have it for my kids...that I am certain of. What Pain wrote.... is why.


When you love someone, their wishes become your wishes, their delights become your delights, their pleasures become your pleasures, and their pain becomes your pain.

Anything else is not love, but selfishness.

Other than that, I am at a loss on LOVE.

Does anybody LOVE me? I don't know for sure and I'll never know for sure. That is outside of our control.

One thing I haven't read yet is what about Loving ourselves? What does that look like? I have a hard time with this one.....

Is it loving me or me being selfish???

jjct posted 11/15/2013 06:43 AM

It is not selfish to love yourself - at all.

I think we all understand the confusion whiteflower, I'm so sorry. 18 years? That's so hard, so hard indeed. My heart goes out to you!

I like bigskyblue's description of ACTIONS. That's wonderful...the small things...beautiful.
Is it possible to become deaf - deaf to (what turns out to be meaningless) words? I think we have to make a journey inside, for me in utter silence, shutting out all sounds, to listen to my core.

I'm sorry we've been lied to. I share your grief and confusion.

sohowamI posted 11/15/2013 06:46 AM

I always thought that loving someone meant that you cared for them - you cared about their health, their wellbeing. You would never put them into a position where they would get hurt - either by you or anyone else. You would put yourself in their shoes, so to speak, so that if you were in a position of doing something that would affect them adversely, you wouldn't do it.

My WS did none of these things. He made sure that I was fed and cared for financially. We went on vacations; we went out; we saw friends. All the time he was 'seeing' other women or charming other women so that they would be a part of his life; he pursued other women; he maintained long term relationships with other women; he gave me sexually transmitted diseases and had children with OW#5.

My WS tells me that he 'loved' me during all the above. I maintain that he does not know what 'love' is. He tells me that he never wanted to leave me. I maintain that he only wanted what HE wanted, without any consideration of me.

That is NOT love. What IS love then?

ILINIA posted 11/15/2013 09:31 AM

I think love is investing in a person/relationship verses maintaining a person/relationship.

When I look back, I feel WH was maintaining our marriage, but not investing in it. His emotions then were surface-level. Since the A, he's grown and is now invested and has deeper emotions. Unfortunately, I moved from investing into maintaining.

HardenMyHeart posted 11/15/2013 10:02 AM

There is an excellent book by M. Scott Peck that discusses your question in detail, titled: The Road Less Traveled

You're struggling with the question because you have no clear context as to the definition of love. Once you can define it in your mind, you can look at your WS's behavior and determine what aspects were loving and which were not.

heme posted 11/15/2013 10:47 AM

I saw one example of true, everlasting love in my life and that was my grandparents. They valued each other before anything else and they showed it. When my grandpa worked my grandma woke every morning to have some time with him, took care of what he needed and sent him to work with the knowledge when he got home she would be there. He never had to doubt her love or care for him because she showed him through her actions and words every day that he was her priority and that she loved him. My grandpa would do whatever he could to make sure my grandma knew she was his priority. I remember her telling me once after a particularly hard miscarriage (she suffered 8 miscarriages before having my father their only living child) she refused to eat or sleep. My grandpa walked 5 miles to her favorite restaurant and got them to make a carry out meal for them then ran back so it would be warm and he could try to get her to eat something. She ate, not because she wanted the food but because of the love my grandfather had for her to expend all that time and energy after a hard day at work (he had a very physically demanding job)

My grandma passed away in 1991, my grandpa visited her grave weekly until he lost his license due to sight issues. Then he got a person from their church to drive him every other week until he ended up with dementia. Hes final words was "I love you Myrtle" (my grandma). She was the only one he never forgot.

Love isn't some crazy emotion that raises and falls at whim. Its action. Its putting someone else before yourself. It doesn't mean you don't take care of yourself as well but it means prioritizing others before yourself. Instead of worrying about yourself you are worrying about the other person. Its putting away your past relationships and valuing your partner before anyone else. If you are putting anyone or anything in front of your relationship with your spouse then you aren't truly loving them.

Quakingaspen posted 11/15/2013 11:01 AM

Thank you whiteflower99 for posting this question. I too have been wondering how I would know real love from whatever this is that I have been doing for the last 18 years, because I'll tell you what, I was totally snowed. Does real love even exist or is it just denial?

bigskyblues - I am so happy for you. It sounds like you have something really amazing and real. It is those little things sometimes.

I am curious about what other people think though. I think this topic really helps.

TrustedHer posted 11/15/2013 11:07 AM

Here is a standard, often used in weddings.

I'm not religious, but I must have heard this 20 times over the years. Including my own wedding.

The definition of standard, by the way, means a goal, model, or template.

I did not live up to the standard, entirely, even before the divorce. I'm not sure any imperfect human can. Some can come closer than others, and some can take actions that destroy love.

1 Corinthians 13:48a
(New International Version)
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (NIV)

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